Friday, January 8, 2010

Brrrr

With the cold snap causing freezing temperatures in places where they normally don't have to deal with such things, I thought I'd give a little tip for our southern brethren on thawing frozen pipes.

Because I got asked that very question this morning.

First, the best strategy to keep your pipes unfrozen is to leave water trickling overnight. That will keep them open at least a bit so that when you get up in the morning and turn them on you'll have water.

Failing that, when pipes freeze, you need to apply heat. I hear you all saying "Well Duh" but apparently portions of this aren't as clear as they should be.

For instance, if you can't get under the house to the places where the pipes actually froze, all is not lost.

Simply open up under the sink and apply heat there. A space heater works well for this as it's going to take a while and you can just leave it go until you have water. If you can improvise a safe propping method for your heat gun, fantastic.

Why apply heat where the pipes aren't frozen you ask? Because if you heat the pipes inside the house, the heat travels down the pipes via the water and the pipe itself if it's metal (PVC doesn't carry heat as well) and thaw the frozen bits. The further the frozen section of pipe is from your sink, the longer this will take, but it will work.

Be sure and open the tap, because once the water starts running, or even trickling, you're home free. The running water will work a path through the ice and open things up.

So, there's one piece of advice. How about all the other cold-staters? Anyone got a favorite method for thawing frozen pipes or dealing with some other cold-related problem?

14 comments:

Lokidude said...

Bah. They don't know cold if they've never had to plug in a vehicle. That being said, remember, you lose a boatload of heat through your head. Hats are important! Drinking water is every bit as important when its cold as when its hot, too.

Wai said...

We usually insulate our pipes in areas where they may be prone to freezing, before we enclose them with other building parts.

Jack'o'all Trades said...

Also be careful of your traps... If you have frozen pipes, there is a good chance, depending on where they are, that you have a frozen trap too. leaving the water running and walking away can lead to some interesting consequences if your trap is blocked.

This advice comes from experience where I had a loft apartment above an unheated garage. The water main froze, so I figured that I would leave the heater going, crack the tub faucet so as to provide adequate flow to keep pipe open, and went out to get dinner. came back to the sound of water cascading onto the floor of the garage below. Heat worked, but overflowed the bathtub because the trap was in the unheated garage ceiling.

Crucis said...

It got to -14 in KC last night. The high today may reach 0. One thing you didn't mention was to keep the vanities under your sinks open as well. This allow warm air to circuit and help prevent/reduce freezing. You especially need to pay attention to pipes in outer walls where insulation may be thin. If you have pipes running along exterior closet walls, keep the closet open too just like keeping the vanities doors open.

Every little bit helps.

Nancy R. said...

If you have well and a pump, you may have to thaw the pump, too, if it's in an uninsulated, 300-year-old house in the English basement. Not that I'd know anything about that.

BUFF_dragon said...

you have to be careful about heating pipes under the house too fast....
especially PVC, if you have some footage that is frozen and you put a spacer heater in the middle it may heat the middle and cause that water to create too much pressure and split the pipe in between 2 frozen sections.....

Old NFO said...

Yep, HAWAII... :-)

Well Seasoned Fool said...

If you use anything with an open flame please have a fire extinguisher handy. Murphy loves frozen pipes.

Old NFO has the best idea.

Jeffro said...

My old house has a concrete block foundations, so after about a hundred years they have shifted somewhat. The insulation in a can works good for filling in the cracks, but it only lasts a year or so. I also keep an electric heater in the crawl space set on low. Plus, dripping faucets don't always work if it isn't dripping enough. I've had pipes freeze with just a steady drip, but if it's a steady trickle, less problems.

Zdogk9 said...

I keep a light bulb in my pump house if it's cold I turn it on. for the pipes under the house I have heat tape that I plug in when it's freezing.
Boiling water dumped in the sink takes care of frozen traps.

Wai said...

Just don't pour boiling water down the toilet, lest you melt the johnny ring that seals the toilet to the waste pipe.

hogdogs said...

Point of note for well eqipped homes... The first place to start is the "up tube" to the pressure switch. I gather ice water from the fridge and boil in a tea kettle. Pouring it on the pressure switch tube usually finds the pump (submerged type) kick right off and I then got my water going.

Was so cold this week, my dripping faucets and slow trickle at the spigot out by the dog yard weren't enuff to keep the pressure switch tube from freezing.
Brent

THR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry Ashcraft said...

Two 60 watt bulbs in the wellhouse from December through February (I really need to build a new roof for the wellhouse!).

If things freeze anyway, a milkhouse heater down in the wellhouse usually fixes things up pretty quickly